Reality Bytes: Inside Superorganism's World

Superorganism tell us about the process of making their cross-continental debut album, nearly suffering an existential crisis and building the Superorganism world

Feature by Nadia Younes | 01 Mar 2018

When a little song called Something for Your M.I.N.D. appeared on SoundCloud in January last year, the band behind it instantly became the biggest talking point in music, as people began to wonder, “Who the fuck are Superorganism?”

Unlike the Arctic Monkeys back in 2006 though, Superorganism have turned out to be something of an anomaly. The eight-strong band/collective – made up of B, Emily, Harry, Orono, Robert, Ruby, Soul and Tucan – initially came together via internet music forums, with members scattered all over the globe. A small group of them formed while living in Wellington, New Zealand, with the idea of putting a band together, before relocating to Auckland for a few years, and then eventually to their current base – a shared house in Homerton, East London, where all eight members now reside.

“A lot of the time for us in this band, things just happen naturally and there's not necessarily been a grand plan,” says Harry, the band’s guitarist and one of its songwriters/producers. “That's kind of the beauty of Superorganism, and who we are and what we are, that none of us really have super strong ties to any one place, in terms of the way the band formed and even who we are as people.”

The process of making their self-titled debut album was a bit of a globe-spanning affair too, with Korean backing singer Soul still based in Sydney, Australia at the time and lead vocalist Orono recording vocals from her high school dorm room in Maine, New England. “When I recorded some of the stuff, I would have to wait until my roommate was taking a shit,” says lead vocalist Orono, very matter-of-factly.

As a previous incarnation of the band, some of its members had met 17-year-old Orono at one of their gigs in Japan, who had come across their music through YouTube recommendations. When it came to putting vocals together for the track that was to become Something for Your M.I.N.D., they remembered Orono and sent her the track. Within an hour, she had recorded her vocal parts on her MacBook, sent the track back to the band, and the rest is history.

The track’s success came about just as quickly as its development and within a few days of it being put up on SoundCloud, it had received thousands of listens and been picked up by just about every music blog in the world. Then, adding further fuel to the fast-spreading fire, Frank Ocean played it on his Beats 1 radio show, blonded RADIO, swiftly followed by Ezra Koenig doing the same, on Time Crisis.

The latter of which was particularly exciting for Orono, who had previously dabbled in writing a bit of Vampire Weekend fanfiction. “Exciting would be an understatement,” she says. “He not only played the song, he replied to my tweet at him, with the fanfiction.” And Orono’s writing talents don’t stop there, with even more of her fanfiction attempts visualised on the band’s YouTube page, featuring various other celebrities.

A listen to the band’s music and a quick glance at their website, and it becomes clear that they are very much fans of early-mid 00s music and pop culture. Tracks like It’s All Good and Everybody Wants to Be Famous recall the electro, indie-pop explosion of the mid 00s, and their website looks like it was designed using Windows 2000. Their videos too – all of which are directed by in-house videographer Robert Strange – have an equally grainy aesthetic, made up of a mixture of self-shot and archival footage and images.

“What we're trying to do with this project is, it's kind of like a world-building exercise in a way; we're trying to build the Superorganism world,” says Harry. “[The album is] like a foundation on which we're going to build and grow. It's got the tracks on it that are already out, so those are kind of a taster of what there is on there, but there's also some more reflective, mellow moments to it, there's some more crazy and far out psychedelic moments on it, then there's everything in-between those two moods.”

The band liken their unconventional work method to that of the process of making a mainstream pop record – but in a more indie, DIY fashion – in that some of the members (Soul and Orono) hadn’t even met until after it was finished. “It's a weird way of working I guess but it kind of just feels natural to us in the modern world,” says Harry. “We didn't come up with this revolutionary new way of working; it just happened.”

In a rather bold fashion, continuing on the subject, Harry goes on to reference Kanye West’s guest-heavy fifth album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, as a similar method of working. “He rented out three studios in Hawaii – three within the same complex – and just had a rotating cast of collaborators coming through. I bet there were points where two artists ended up on the same song that, because of their schedules not aligning or whatever, didn't necessarily work on that song together,” he says. “What we did is a very low budget version of what Kanye did,” adds Orono.

Such was the mystery around the band when they first began to pick up buzz that many actually began to question Orono’s existence, some even suggesting that she was a hologram and not an actual person. Then, as press interest increased and photos of the band began appearing, it was Soul who became the next topic of questioning. Due to his location restricting him from being present at the band’s earlier photo shoots, they instead came up with other creative ways to include him and make his existence in the band known – placing a picture of him in the background of a photo, or putting up a poster of him on a wall behind them, for example.

“With the Everybody Wants to Be Famous video, the whole narrative in that is whether or not Orono is real and now Soul's this weird, elusive figure as well, so I kind of like this idea that none of us are quite real,” says Harry. “It was funny, because I mean I get where people were coming from, but I feel like it put me in a kind of life crisis... so I was like ‘hmm I wonder if I am real?’” adds Orono.

To add even further to the already bubbling-over hype, the band were recently included in both the BBC Sound of 2018 and DIY Class of 2018 lists, tipped as ones to watch this year alongside the likes of Norwegian pop sensation Sigrid and Mancunian goth-pop outfit Pale Waves. But despite their incredible success, the band seem unfazed. “When you’ve got eight people in a band, you become this little group and this little tribe... so it kind of insulates you a bit from whatever pressures and stuff,” says Harry.

Superorganism’s world may be spinning at a lightning pace and showing no signs of stopping, but all eight of them are keeping their feet firmly on the ground – if the ground they’re standing on is even real at all.

Superorganism is out now via Domino Superorganism play CCA, Glasgow, 11 Mar